Obstruction Charge Added to Bid Rigging Indictment

admin —  May 10, 2013 — Leave a comment

Andrew B. Katakis, Danville, California, is now the subject of a superseding indictment charging him with obstruction of justice related to a federal investigation into conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions held in San Joaquin County, California.

The remaining allegations are unchanged from the original indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury on Dec. 7, 2011. The pre-existing counts charge Katakis, Donald M. Parker, Anthony B. Joachim and W. Theodore Longley with conspiring with other unnamed co-conspirators to rig bids and commit mail fraud when purchasing selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions. Wiley C. Chandler, another real estate investor who was also charged in the original indictment, pleaded guilty on Feb. 24, 2012.

The added charge alleges that after Katakis received a letter notifying him that a federal grand jury had subpoenaed his bank account, he deleted and caused others to delete electronic records and documents related to the conspiracies. The superseding indictment alleges that Katakis also installed and caused others to install and use a software program that overwrote deleted electronic records and documents so that they could not be viewed or recovered.

According to the superseding indictment, Katakis, Parker, Joachim, Longley and co-conspirators agreed to suppress and restrain competition by rigging bids to obtain selected properties offered at public auctions in San Joaquin County. The conspirators also devised a scheme to fraudulently acquire titles to selected properties sold at the public auctions and to divert money to co-conspirators that would have gone to the beneficiaries. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy lasted from at least September 2008 until at least October 2009.

Katakis, Parker, Joachim and Longley are charged with bid rigging, a violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine. They are also charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The newly added obstruction of justice charge against Katakis carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.

To date, 10 individuals have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in connection with the investigation: Anthony B. Ghio, John R. Vanzetti, Theodore B. Hutz, Richard W. Northcutt, Yama Marifat, Gregory L. Jackson, Walter Daniel Olmstead, Robert Rose, Kenneth Swanger and Chandler.

“This superseding indictment includes allegations that, in addition to the charges previously alleged, this defendant obstructed justice,” said Benjamin B. Wagner, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, who announced the charges. “The new charge arises out of a long-running investigation that has already resulted in guilty pleas by numerous other defendants who participated in the scheme charged in this case.”

“Obstruction of a grand jury investigation is a crime the Antitrust Division takes seriously,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “We will prosecute those who subvert the competitive process, as well as those who attempt to conceal their illegal actions by destroying evidence.”

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